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Your Terrace Garden

Updated on July 28, 2018
Al Greenbaum profile image

Loves plants and flowers but didn`t have the confidence to grow them until one day, throwing caution to the wind, he took the plunge.

I have been container gardening for just a few months. I am not an expert. In fact, I baulked at the idea of becoming a container-gardener because it seemed so precise, so careful. Then, one day, I said to myself, “it does not matter. Give it a try”.
Since that time I have had some success. Don`t get me wrong, my terrace garden is not like Blenheim Palace, but it is still colourful.


I share my experiences here to help others who might fancy taking up this relaxing and rewarding hobby. If I make any errors here it is because of my lack of knowledge, so please be patient if I misname a plant or something like that.
Don`t be put off from gardening by ph values and other advanced terms like it. Don`t aim for those wonderful window box you see on a google search. If you pardon the pun, start at ground level and work towards those dizzy heights of stunning, photogenic window boxes or a magnificent terrace garden. For the time being just grow your stuff and all that can come later. What put me off gardening for a long time was having to aim high and produce the perfect garden. That just does not apply. If you grow beautiful flowers and plants, that is enough for a start. The landscaping aspect can come later. Just enjoy the process of growing and admiring what you produce. You don`t have to be an expert, just someone who likes the colours and fragrances that beautiful plants and flowers bring.

First Steps

Find a flower market or garden center near you. To gain confidence, I recommend some easy-to-care-for flowers. Ideally, these flowers will already be in bloom but with buds for more growth. Talk to the retailer, ask about the way the flower should be cared for and then get ready for home.
Before we get to the growing of your first plants, a quick word on failure. Even the most experienced gardener has plants that just do not grow. No reason just didn`t happen. And it is the same for you and me. We tried our best to produce something, but it didn`t work out. So be prepared for that, and I am sure there will be many more successes than failures.

Easy Care Flowers, Hibiscus

Hibiscus love the sun and thrives when getting regular water and fertilizer. Their blooms only last for 24 hours but with even limited attention can flower for the whole summer.

Jasmine

Jasmine does well in full sun but benefits from some shade. So pick a spot where there is sun in the morning but shade in the afternoon. The small flowers produce a sweet, intoxicating fragrance that is intensified at night and especially after rain.

Marigold

One of the real tough guys of the flower kingdom. They love full sun and can survive drought conditions. They come in yellow, light orange and sometimes a hybrid of both. Marigolds are the most forgiving of plants. When you think you have lost them, they come back even stronger. Remember to 'deadhead' or just take off any dead blooms as this helps the next set of flowers to come through.

Lantana

With their vibrant, sherbet colours of yellow, pink, orange and white. Lantana is very difficult to kill through lack of attention. Robust and resilient, these plants are a friend to container gardeners.

Care of Your Plants

Watering.

Be a little experimental about this. The aim is to water the plant enough so the roots can easily draw upon what has been given to it. But if you water too much, you risk saturating the roots, which can signal the end of your cultivar. I have lost several plants through over-watering. It helps if you have a window box or pot that has drainage holes so excess water can drain quickly.

Fertilizer

Again, you have to be ready to experiment with this. The rule seems to be every month is when you should feed your plants. Some people say every two weeks. Others say use an organic fertilizer every month but every two weeks give them some potassium if you want to improve the number of blooms you get. Some say slow-release, chemical fertilizer is the best way. I can`t say too much about that as I am new to this hobby, but was worked quite well is free-range fertilizer with potassium every two weeks. I don`t appear to have killed too many plants doing that. Incidentally, potassium is almost impossible to acquire now, but no matter. Collect your used banana skins, leave them in a plastic container for about a week with some water poured over them and you have a ready supply of the mineral.

Containers or Window Boxes?

I use both. Make sure your window boxes have good drainage holes and position them at a slight angle on what you are going to mount them on.
The best flowers for window boxes, in my experience, are petunias.

When you are planting your plants in your window-boxes, leave enough space for each one to grow. About two inches is enough. If you bought your flowers from a garden center or market, make sure the roots of your plant are not encased in the soil from the grow bag. Lightly, ease off the earth, so the roots are exposed. Pack the potting soil tightly, so the flower remains upright. Water afterward.

Soil

Use one of the many varieties of specially prepared potting soil for your containers. When filling the pot, leave about an inch from the top of the bowl. Obviously, there are many opportunities for different kinds of soil to be used if you live in a house. But here, I have in mind those who grow their gardens on balconies or terraces that are part of an apartment.

Equipment

The obvious containers and trowels are needed, but you might consider different kinds of containers for your garden. Gardening boots are often used to grow flowers, for example. People have been known to produce things in an old bath. There is no limit to what you can improvise with.
A good pair of garden shears is helpful as well as a heavy brush to take up the mess that follows a bit of gardening.

Going Further

Once you have had some success with growing your own plants, there is time to think about the next stages of your hobby. Do you want your window boxes to be themed by colour or maybe plant?
Are you feeling like you need something different like orchids or plants from far afield like ylang-ylang? The possibilities are endless. But the beautiful thing about container gardening is that almost anything is possible. You are only limited by your own imagination.

Afterword

Sometimes your plants may not grow. Possibly because you put them in direct sun when they need shade. Maybe you watered them too often. You could have skimped on the fertilizer, or given too much. It could be a combination of all these things but what you have to do is learn. Look at your garden and ask yourself questions like “ Why do some plants thrive in one section and not in another? It may mean that you may have to move some plants during the day to track the path of the sun. Conversely, you may want to keep some plants out of the way of the sun. Begonias grow much better in the shade.
No matter what, enjoy your garden. Start easy with hibiscus and the like and then test your skills with tricky plants like amaryllis.

Amaryllis

Enjoy the satisfaction of growing and caring for something. Sit in your garden and take in the fragrances and colours. Feel the soothing balm of your own terrace garden.

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